Bracketology: Bubble teams watching Monmouth hoping it wins MAAC

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We have reached the point of the season where we usually talk about bid-stealers. That typically happens when there is an upset winner from one of the non-major conferences, but the regular season champion is also of at-large quality, so that conference ends up with two teams in the field instead of one. That takes a spot away from a team on the bubble, which has their bid stolen.


Jerry Palm’s projected bracket

In this year of parity, where teams near the top of rankings fall every week, it looks like some level of parity has hit what is usually some of the better non-major conferences. There really aren’t any good candidates for bid-stealers.

Part of the reason for that is the lack of quality non-conferences wins by the better teams in some of those conferences. Also, there isn’t good competition within those leagues, which doesn’t allow for some resume building.

A look at the top possible teams who could help enable a bid to be stolen by losing in their conference tournament:

WICHITA STATE: The Shockers are getting the most attention now because they fell in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament to Northern Iowa, the eventual winner. The Shockers played a good non-conference schedule, but only beat one of the good teams they played. That win came at home over Utah, which is a pretty good team, but that’s basically all the Shockers have.

They have just four top 100 wins. Two of those are against Evansville, which is in the 90s. The next best RPI team Wichita State beat was UNI, which is 70th this morning, but they went 1-2 against the Panthers. They also have a loss to Illinois State. Wichita fans are hoping a good KenPom number gets them into the tournament or that the committee will ignore the early season games Fred Van Vleet didn’t play. They don’t really have much else.

MONMOUTH: The Hawks are well-known for the antics of its bench mob, but they are the one team among the better non-major conference champions that has more than one good non-conference win. The Hawks beat Notre Dame and USC in a tournament, and two other borderline top 100 teams, UCLA and Georgetown, on the road. Kentucky and Arizona lost at UCLA, but Monmouth won there. However, the Hawks have three 200+ RPI losses, which is a lot. Only USC in 2011 has received an at-large bid with that many.

Monmouth will play Iona for the MAAC title Monday night. They split road-and-road in the regular season with the Gaels running Monmouth out of its own gym a couple weeks ago. I think this is the team that will give the committee the most to talk about if they are available as an at-large.

SAN DIEGO STATE: The Aztecs, who beat Cal in non-conference play, but also lost at home to Little Rock and Grand Canyon, and a neutral site game to 300th ranked San Diego. The Aztecs also lost at home to Boise State in the league. The Mountain West usually has another team of at least bubble quality, but nobody is close this year, which is hurting the Aztecs’ ability to impress the committee.

VALPARAISO: Valparaiso is also among this year’s one-hit wonders. Unlike Wichita State and San Diego State, the Crusaders can’t usually count on its league to help them out. Valpo made a trip to the Pacific Northwest this year to play the Oregon schools and put a scare into the Ducks before winning at Oregon State.

The fact that the league isn’t good otherwise puts a lot of pressure on the Crusaders because every loss is damaging. They won the league, but lost twice to Wright State. That, along with losses to Ball State and Belmont outside the league means an at-large bid is unlikely.

Bids can also be stolen in the major conferences. A team like Ohio State or Georgia running all the way to a conference tournament title could steal a bid from someone, and not necessarily from another team in that league. That kind of thing is less common, but it has happened a couple of times in the SEC. Georgia has done it once, in 2008, as has Arkansas (2000).

>> More Bracketology: FAQs on selection process | Selection Sunday by the numbers

Will the Monmouth bench be able to continue its antics in The Big Dance? (USATSI)
Will the Monmouth bench be able to continue its antics in The Big Dance? (USATSI)


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